Look, I’ll be the first to say that I didn’t hate Kelsea Ballerini’s debut album; I think she’s a good vocalist, and she showed potential as a songwriter in several places. It was sorely mislabeled as a country project when most of it was straight pop, and the few pop country offerings were mostly way too overproduced. To add to this, she released a couple of God-awful singles to country radio in the massively annoying “Dibs” and female bro country-ish “Yeah Boy.” But she also released a pretty nice one in “Peter pan” and a catchy, if pop, song in “Love me Like You Mean It,” and I was interested to see if her second album would take her into the land of full-on Disney pop princess music or more into stuff like Lauren Alaina’s recent record, definitely pop-leaning but with more substance and maturity.
So we come to “Legends,” Kelsea’s first single from her new record, and here’s what she had to say about it…”Every time I’ve listened to it, I find a different meaning … it brings me back to the heartbreak I wrote it from.” she goes on to say that at different times, she’s thought of her fans and her journey, and now she thinks of it as a “legendary love story” and concludes with the sentiment, “I hope everyone hears something in it that brings them to a place of nostalgia and is as excited as I am to begin this new chapter together.”
Well, let me say for the record, listening to “Legends” only brings me to a place of boredom, and it makes me about as excited to hear the rest of her new album as I would be to watch paint dry. I want to find something to like, or at least something positive to say, and it’s not like I’d change the station if this came on because it’s not outright obnoxious like “Dibs” or “Yeah Boy”–but that’s just it, it’s so vapid and shallow, and there’s just nothing at all here. It’s supposed to be this legendary tale of past love, but the only line that sticks out is “I’ll always wear the crown that you gave me,” and that’s just because that line is so idiotic and conjures up more images of the Disney princess music I mentioned before. I suppose maybe it’s talking about prom, but the fact remains it’s a lazy piece of songwriting throughout, and when I think of legendary love stories, I don’t think of songs where neither the melody nor the lyrics stand out and where the singer doesn’t even sound engaged. Yes, as I said, Ballerini does have a good voice, and in a technical sense, she sings this well, but she sounds so bored–and who wouldn’t be? It’s vapid, bland, safe, formulaic, and so forgettable that it’s not harmless 4-ish or 5-ish material like “Speak to a Girl” but complete emptiness similar to “Live Forever” by The Band Perry from a couple years ago. In fact, that song is a great comparison because while there’s not something glaringly wrong with this, like offensive lyrics or cringe-worthy Sam Hunt style spoken word, it’s the nothingness of this song which renders it awful. And finally, let’s erase the notion that this in any way, shape, or form should have ever been considered country–but that’s almost an afterthought, because at least the most recent atrocities to receive a rant here, Keith Urban’s “The Fighter” and Thomas Rhett’s “Craving You,” were actually catchy and therefore at least marginally better as pop songs. This? this is a failure in both genres and wouldn’t make it on pop radio.
I want to find something to like about Kelsea Ballerini. I want to support more women being given a voice on country radio, but this is not country in the slightest, and there are so many more women, both country and even in the pop and pop country realms, who deserve the limited space more than her, and if “Legends” is a success, it will in no way represent progress, either for females in country or for music of substance and the genre in general. Here’s to hoping her album is much, much better than this.
Written by: Kelsea Ballerini, Glen Whitehead, Hillary Lindsey